Igbo Directions in Amsterdam

Eh! Excuse me young man; you look Nigerian.

I am, I say, I am indeed.

OK good. I thought you were going to speak Dutch to me
How can people understand that yeye language?
Kai! They just cut their throat all the time:
Gracht! Gracht! Gracht! Tufia-kwa!
So therefore, where are you from, now?

I’m from America, visiting from Colorado.

Nonsense! Which kind answer be that?
Where are you from?

I’m from Umunakanu, Ehime, Mbano.

Eh heh! Did I not know?
Kedu ka i mere?

O di mma!

Eh heh! So you speak your language.
I na suo Igbo.
I wasn’t sure with that supri-supri accent.
Me, I’m from Nnewi.

And so she switched to rapid, riverside Igbo,
Drawing me along on the Niger at the Onitsha bridge,
Almost sweeping me across to Anioma.

I held on, half drowned and gasping;
Finally, a snatch of shore.

A nam a cho Regulierswahrsstrasse.
O nwere onye na e nyelum aka eba.
Biko, i nwere ihe dika map

I held out my second-hand Amsterdam op de Fiets
With its regimented blocks of pleins upon grachts.
Smiling as she squinted at the slip of paper from her purse
The misspelled Dutch.
Who had tried to drown her
This far from Onishe’s care?
Who had commended her
To the alien currents of the Ej?

Kedu ka i mere?—Igbo: how are you doing?
O di mma!—Igbo: it is well
Anioma—Territory just west of the Niger from Igboland, whose people are either Igbo or closely related
A nam a cho—Igbo: I’m looking for
O nwere onye na e nyelum aka eba—Igbo: Someone there is to do me a favor
Biko, i nwere ihe dika map?—Please, do you have any sort of map?
Onishe—Northwestern Igbo goddess and personification of the River Niger, source of the city name Onitsha

About the author

Uche Ogbuji was born in Calabar, Nigeria and has been a traveler ever since. His poems, fusing Igbo culture, European Classicism, U.S. Mountain West…

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Issue 21 · October 2014

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